How to Grade Pokemon Cards Properly

Like if this guide is helpful
Please VOTE by clicking the green thumbs up above if the guide was helpful!
Last Updated: October 18th, 2013
Maintained By eBay User ID: www_rockcarolina_com


After collecting, trading, and selling Pokemon cards over the past few years I have noticed a ver y steady 
trend  that people do not know how to grade Pokemon cards properly.  In fact, many just skip the gradin aspect entirely because they are afraid of not getting it right.  Some state a general condition of "good" or "excellent" and they leave it up to the buyer to take a gamble on what they are buying.  Bottom line to sellers, grading your cards accurately will increase your sales.  When people trust that you sell a quality product they will always come back to you.  Even if you have to accurately grade something as bad, this honesty will help boost your sales because people will know that what you say is what you mean.  Honesty goes a long way! 

So the first thing I want to talk about are the specific parts of Pokemon cards that should be looked at when grading.  From my experience many people only look at the front of the card and base the entire grade on it when in fact the back of the cards are the most damaged due to playing use.  All factors should be considered and accurately described.  Its even hard to when a seller just says the card is in "Near Mint" condition.  Does that mean the front AND back?  Taking the time to accurately describe your cards will increase your sales as I said above and will also eliminate headaches from buyers returning them.  So, the parts of the card that should be carefully looked at are:


1.  The holographic, holo, or shiny portion of the card (if applicable):
- The holographic portion of the card is extremely sensitive and is prone to scratching very easily.  Even though 
the other parts of the front look good, the holo can still be very scratched.  Sometimes you will need to look at the 
holo portion under a light to see the scratches.  Reverse holos are even more sensitive to scratching due to more 
of the card being exposed.  
2.  The Front Face:
- If a holo card, if the front is scratched, the holo can be seen directly through.  For normal card the front doesn’t take as much damage as the back but still look out for things like: stains, water damage, writing, etc.    

3.  The Edges:
- The front edges are usually pretty clean on a Pokemon card because, as I said before, the back is what gets the most damage.  But still there is a possibility for chips/scratching as well. 
4.  General Wear:
- Bends, creases, water damage, writing on the card, shuffle wear are all obvious signs of play and should be noted.  Even a crease extremely small should still be described as collectors look for creaseless cards.



1. The Edges:
- This to me is the biggest problem with Pokemon cards, the whitening of the edges on the back.  When a 
Pokemon card gets handled too much without the proper casing, the edges of the card will chip and show the white underneath.  The more shown, the worse the condition.  I can't tell you how many times I have received a "NM/M" card and the front is just as described while the back is destroyed.        

2.  The Back Face:
- Same goes as the front face however the back face has more of a chance to get damaged.  When these cards are played on a table without sleeves, people slide them across and create small scratches on the back of the card or in some cases the sliding is so severe that the back actually gets a little discolored. 

3.  General Wear:
- Same as the front.  Bends, creases, water damage, writing on the card, shuffle wear are all obvious signs of play and should be noted.  Even a crease extremely small should still be described as collectors look for crease-less cards.


So as for the grading scale, I have chosen 4 cards and each will represent a specific condition, as shown by the pictures below.  For me personally, my grades in my store are: GEM MINT, MINT, NEAR MINT (+), NEAR MINT (~), EXCELLENT, and PLAYED.  You can do a grading scale of your choice but it has to be very similar because these are standards across the board, you can’t make up your own system.  I, for example, added Near Mint (+) and Near Mint (~) because this describes the cards in more detail.  Some people just say Near Mint, its up to you.  A bad example of people using the wrong terms when grading is the word “excellent” or “good” condition.  For many people this is the only word that they will use to describe all of their cards.  People these are opinions, not grades.  No one is going to understand your opinion because they don't know you!  And the word “excellent” on the grading scale, by the way, is actually below near mint so you can see why this is a problem for many collectors.  Your opinion of "excellent" or "good" could be the complete opposite of someone elses.  You need to clarify by explaining the condition!  If you're going to say "excellent" or "good", explain what you mean by those statements.  For more info on other grading systems, search Google!  Doesn’t have to be a Pokemon grading scale, just something you can compare this with.  Check out the official grading scale of PSA graded cards on Google for example, very similar.  Here is further explanation on each grade and some pictures to go with each:


Gem Mint (GEM) – The card has zero imperfections. Zero scratches on the front or the back. Zero tears, bends, stains, etc. Blue border on back has zero traces of white edge wear. Card is perfect.  (This is a grade that I don't use often just because buyers will find something wrong if they look hard enough.  I wouldn't say this grade unless you are absolutely positive that your card is perfect.)
Mint (M) – The card has minimal minor imperfections in the form of: The front or back of the card has one minor scratch; the blue border has only one trace of white edge wear showing. Zero tears, bends, stains, etc. Almost a perfect card. (Note the 1st Edition Shining Charizard below and see how clean the front face is and how there is zero to maybe a small trace of white showing on the back.  Zero to one tiny scratch on the holo.)  
Near Mint Plus (+) (NM+) – The card has a few minor imperfections in the form of: The front or back of the card has a few minor scratches; the blue border has a few traces of white edge wear showing. The holo or foil part of the card might have a few very tiny scratches, not many. Nothing major.  (The front of this card is clean however the back shows two spots (A) that show very minor edge wear) 
Near Mint Minus (~) (NM~) – The same as Near Mint Plus except this grade allows for a few more minor scratches and traces of edge wear. A near mint minus might have multiple tiny scratches on the foil but only visible under a light, nothing major. Only one minor hairline crease/bend allowed. Might be borderline in some cases to excellent.  (The front of the 1st Edition Base Charizard shows a couple stain spots (A), the back of the Charizard shows multiple spots of edge wear (A))
Excellent (EX) – The card has multiple minor imperfections in the form of: The front or back may have multiple scratches, the blue border may have multiple traces of white edge wear. Might have one minor crease/bend, small stain, etc. Card might be played but no major damage to the card. Card still shows great quality and could almost be near mint in some cases.  (The front of the Umbreon shows a few stain spots (A), the back of the Umbreon shows edge wear along the entire left side (A) and the back also shows a worn corner (B)).  
Played (PL) – The card has multiple minor and major imperfections in the form of: The front or back may have multiple scratches, the blue border may have multiple traces of white edge wear. Card might also have major bends, tears, stains, is altered, is written on, has water damage, etc. Perfect for playing use only.  The card in the picture below was a card I bought off of eBay from a guy stating it as "NM".  I complained, he refused to help, eBay refunded.  (The front clearly shows three corners peeling and bent (A) and moderate staining (B).  The back shows a severely dinged corner (A), a severely creased corner (B), a crease running in the middle of the card (C), staining on the entire back (D), and severe edge wear running on the sides (E)).  How people think cards like this are "NM" blows my mind.       
Explore more guides